The residence of the British Prime Minister is a gloomy building, but its inhabitants are not inclined to be sad, even if there is no special reason for fun, for example, when a lockdown is declared in the country, instructing not to communicate with anyone and not to leave the house once again. While law-abiding Britons adhered to strict isolation rules and could not visit their relatives under fear of heavy fines, glasses were clinking in the building on Downing Street.
From what has leaked to the press, it is clear that British government officials did not miss the opportunity to buzz. At least twice they gathered in the garden of the prime minister’s residence in May 2020. “Join us from 6 pm and bring the booze!” Johnson’s closest aide, Martin Reynolds, sent out invitations to government officials. A whole series of parties took place there on Christmas Eve, when the country was once again plunged into deep quarantine by Johnson. So, on December 17, officials stormed off Kate Josephs, who led the cabinet’s COVID-19 task force. The Mirror tabloid reports that during the lockdown, Johnson’s subordinates regularly gathered for “wine Fridays”. Everything is like Pushkin in “A Feast in the Time of Plague”:
As from the wicked Winter,
Let’s also block the Plague!
Let’s light the fires, pour the glasses,
Drown fun minds
And, having brewed feasts and balls,
Let’s glorify the kingdom of the Plague.
They had fun even during the days of national mourning, which was announced due to the death of the Duke of Edinburgh Philip, the wife of Queen Elizabeth II:
“The coffin with the b-ody of the prince was pla-ced in the chapel of Win-dsor Castle for the night. T-he next day, the queen, with her face covered with a protective mask, had to say goodbye to her husband, w-ith whom they had lived for 73 years. She sat alone, ob-serving the rules of social distance. Downing Street was completely different t-hat Friday night, councilors and officials gathered after work for two unrelated parties to see off two colleag-ues,” The Telegraph of Lo-ndon describes this event.
That day, Johnson’s former press officer, James Slack, and one of his personal photographers were seen off. The wires dragged on long after midnight. Both companies eventually merged. The dancing began. According to eyewitnesses, they had to send a “messenger” to the store closest to the residence. Everything would be fine, but this unbridled love of life of the apparatchiks thoroughly undermined the patience of the British voters. It is difficult for them to understand why the rules are violated by those who set them. At that time, the government instruction strictly forbade ordinary mortals from gathering indoors.
“The party’s over!” opposition leader Cyrus Starmer said gloatingly to Johnson’s face and demanded that the prime minister resign. Opinion polls show 63 per cent of Britons think Johnson should go. The Prime Minister had to apologize twice: to the Queen in writing and orally to Parliament for the spring party in 2020. Johnson admitted that he did not keep track of subordinates who were drinking in his yard. Of course, he himself was there, but not for long, and in general, he considered it a working event.
The absurdity of Johnson’s own statements is not at all embarrassing. He has a wealth of experience in terms of excuses and inventing all sorts of tall tales. His main political reserve is the majority in parliament and the absence of a real candidate who is ready to replace him today. There are many in the ruling Conservative Party who believe that Johnson, who brought a phenomenal victory in the elections in 2019, “still will show himself.” For a vote of no confidence, it is necessary that 54 Conservative deputies submit a corresponding demand to the intra-party committee of 1922, which can start the procedure for voting for his resignation. Despite open protests against Johnson by a number of party comrades, the required number of rioters is not yet available. And even if there are such, then, oddly enough, they can only strengthen the positions of the current prime minister:
The closest test of Johnson’s popularity within his own party will be local elections on May 5 in England, Wales and Scotland. Most influential conservatives are now inclined to believe that it would be an unforgivable mistake to change the leader before this date. In addition, Johnson’s entourage is already preparing a rescue package. The first step is obvious and made in the direction of sobriety – government officials are planning to officially ban drinking in the workplace.
The Sunday Times newspaper writes that Downing Street intends to supplement the dry law with a number of handouts to the population stung by double standards. Among other things, they are going to remove the remaining restrictions related to COVID-19, and for two years not to raise the annual mandatory fee for using a TV – a BBC license, in 2022 it reached £159. Failure to pay this tax on the content of the “people’s” television corporation in Britain is considered a criminal offense.
In general, saving the prime minister comes down to the usual search for switchmen in the government apparatus. A little-known official, the second secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers, Susan Gray, has been appointed to the role of arbiter of fate. This woman is to submit a report on government parties, and it remains to be seen whether it will be published in full or not. Ironically, the candidacy of Sue Gray appeared on the horizon after the previous appointee, her boss Simon Case, was removed from this mission, because he himself was actively involved in collective gatherings in the workplace.
The British press does not even try to guess which heads will eventually roll out of Downing Street, it is important that there is only one left inside this mansion – with a memorable branded “straw” haircut. How long? Nobody has an answer to this question right now. For Johnson, crises have long been his natural element, but his political buoyancy still cannot be unlimited.